What Jesus Said about our Behaviour Intro

If you have been keeping track this is the fourth series that we have taught
this year based on “What Jesus said about. . 
.”  In April we spoke about “What
Jesus said About Money” and we focused on Jesus’ words concerning how we make
and how we spend our money.  In May and
June we focused on “What Jesus said About Emotions” and we looked at his words
concerning fear, love, hate and Joy. Through the summer we parked ourselves in
the book of John and looked at the various metaphors that Jesus used for himself.  I am the Way, I am the Gate, I am the
Resurrection, etc.

For the next few weeks we are going to look at “What Jesus
Said about Our Behaviour”.    And too often I hear Christians express scorn
for rules and regulations, they talk about how it is all about a relationship
and how they are under grace not under the law. 
It’s almost as if they think it was Jesus who said “Love God and
do as you please.”  It wasn’t
Jesus who said that it was   Augustine who may have been many things
but he was neither Jesus or infallible. 
And so we have people who call themselves Christ Followers
who have no real sense of the Christ they claim to follow.  If they think of his commands at all they
hear him say “Love each other”  “Do not
judge”  and “Do unto others”.  And while those are indeed things that Jesus
commanded us to do they are not the sum total of what he commanded us to
do.  There was a certain level of
expectations to Jesus’ teaching.  That is
he expected certain things and certain behaviour from those who chose to follow
him. 
Apparently 2000 years ago it
was expected that following Jesus would have an impact on how you behaved and
what you did and on what you didn’t do. 
And Jesus took this quite seriously and warned his disciples that they
should take it seriously as well, listen to his words in Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who calls out to me,
‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the
will of my Father in heaven will enter.”
Wow, that’s harsh.  “Not
everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.”  Somehow that doesn’t seem to line up with the
Jesus that is preached so often these days. 
 The Jesus who loves everybody unconditially
as long as they are sincere and try their best. 
It doesn’t sound like the Jesus who understands that it’s really tough
behaving the way the Bible would direct so with a nod and smile he will sneak
you in under the wire. 
But is that the reality?  This
“But at least you tried” Jesus? The Bible doesn’t seem to indicate that
is.   Instead the Jesus of the Bible
teaches that there are rules that must be followed, things that need to be done
and things that shouldn’t be done.  If we
go back to the scripture that we started with we discover a man comes to Jesus
and enquires about what he has to do to live forever.  That is a good question, “What must I do to
inherit eternal life?”  But the man isn’t
looking for a life change he is looking for a magic bullet, some “one thing”
that he can do to assure himself a place in heaven.  Listen again to his question.  Matthew 19:16 Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good
deed must I do to have eternal life?”   Not
“How should I live?” but “What good deed, what one thing, must I do to have
eternal life?.  Tell me what to do and I
will do and then I can get on with life.” 
And to hear some people’s
theology today that magic bullet is “Just accept Jesus as Lord, pray the prayer
and then get on with life.”  But that
isn’t what Jesus said, what Jesus said was Matthew 19:17 “Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied.
“There is only One who is good. But to answer your question—if you want to
receive eternal life, keep the commandments.” Keep the
commandments?  That doesn’t sound like
Jesus, commandments?  What about grace
and not being under the law?  What are
the commandments that Jesus is talking about? 
Let’s go back to Matthew 5:17 where
Jesus said “Don’t
misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the Law of Moses or
the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.”
Well in order to understand what Jesus was saying  it would help if we knew what Jesus was
saying.   So what was the “Law of Moses”
that Jesus spoke of?  Well, the law could
refer to a number of things  1) The Ten
Commandments  2) The first five books of
the Old Testament, which is often referred to as the Pentateuch or five
scrolls. 3) The Law and the Prophets, or what we now call the Old
Testament.  And this is what Jesus said
would not pass away, the Law and the writings of the prophets.
God had been speaking to his
people through the law and prophets for 4000 years, he wasn’t suddenly about to
say, “oops I changed my mind, let’s start over.”   And that’s why Jesus told us in Matthew 5:19 So if you
ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be
called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and
teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Christ wants us to know that he’s not changing the rules in
the middle of the game. 
So the first thing we need to
understand is that the law is necessary and the second thing is that the Christ
Follower is not exempt simply because he follows Christ.  Paul tells us in 1
Corinthians 6:12
You say, “I am allowed to
do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed
to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything.
We are able to do anything
because Christ can forgive anything, but let’s not get into the mind-set.  The word of God says in Romans 6:1-2 Well then,
should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his
wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue
to live in it?
Now keeping
the law means keeping the laws of the land as well as the laws of God, and in
the same way if you don’t agree with them you have every right to break those
laws.  And society has every right to
punish you for breaking them.  In the
early days of the Wesleyan
Church the founders of
our denomination disagreed with slavery and the laws surrounding slavery.  Part of those laws said that it was illegal
to help slaves escape, that would be on the same level today as someone who
helped your car to escape.  That’s called
stealing now and it was called stealing then. 
But that didn’t prevent many Wesleyans from helping slaves escape to the
Northern States
and Canada.   And while they may have been able to justify
what they were doing they were breaking the law and were willing to accept the
consequences of their actions if they got caught.  And a hundred and twenty years later Martin Luther King Jr. said “One who breaks an unjust law that conscience tells him is
unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to
arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality
expressing the highest respect for law.”
In a word the Christian preserves the world order against
decay by keeping the laws of the land. 
If the laws are unjust he may break them, but that doesn’t mean he is
freed from paying the price for breaking them.
And sometimes people will say “I don’t agree with what the
bible says, or with the rules that the Bible imposes.  And in the same way they have every right to
break those commandments and not obey those rules, but they have to realize
that there is a price to be paid there as well.
But the question remains: why?  Why are there rules?  Cause,
that’s why.  Why are there rules
today?  Same reason, to protect you and
to protect others.  That is why you
aren’t supposed to drive when you’ve been drinking,
why you aren’t supposed to eat raw hamburger and why you aren’t supposed to
sleep with everyone you meet.
Too often people look at the rules that God has put in place
and decide that He does it because He’s a spoil sport, He doesn’t want us to
have any fun, He just sits up there in Heaven snickering because of the rules
He’s put in place.  That couldn’t be any
further from the truth.  God put those
laws in place for our benefit and for our protection. 
It’s a Matter of
God’s Love for Us
Within God’s law there are laws
that are laid down for people’s Physical
Benefit:
  For example Leviticus 11:7-8 The pig has evenly split hooves
but does not chew the cud, so it is unclean. You may not eat the meat of these
animals or even touch their carcasses.
So when the law was given you couldn’t eat bacon, or pork
chops or ham.  They were also told they
couldn’t eat other animals or reptiles or fish, because most of those critters were yucky, the technical
term was unclean but it means the same thing. 
3000 years ago it was difficult to cook pork the right way to kill the
parasites that live in it, we know
today that there are certain time of the year that you can eat shell fish and
certain times that you can’t.  We can
read about it in the paper or hear on the radio but then,
it was just safer to say “Don’t eat this stuff.” 
Other rules are set down for
our Social Benefit: Leviticus 20:10 “If a man
commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, both the man and the woman who have
committed adultery must be put to death.
Don’t know if that was a
deterrent but it certainly cut down on repeat offenders.  Leviticus 19:11 “Do not steal. “Do not deceive or cheat one another.”
It is rules that keep society from disintegrating.  They keep family together they protect us
from each other. It was Edmund Burke who said “When ancient opinions and rules of life are taken away, the
loss cannot possibly be estimated. From that moment,
we have no compass to govern us, nor
can we know distinctly to what port to steer.” 
Other rules are for our Emotional Benefit: Exodus 20:17 “You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet
your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else
that belongs to your neighbor.”

There are issues like covetness,
hatred and lack of forgiveness that will destroy us inside if we allow them
to.  And so there are rules that deal
with these issues.

There are also rules and
regulations that are there for our Spiritual
Benefit: 
There are rules against
worshipping idols Leviticus 26:1 “Do not make idols or set up carved images, or sacred
pillars, or sculptured stones in your land so you may worship them. I am the
LORD your God.
There are rules against
worshipping other gods Exodus 34:14 You must worship no other gods, for the LORD, whose very name
is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you.
This particular section even
deals with how much we are supposed to return to God Leviticus 27:30 “One tenth of the
produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees,
belongs to the LORD and must be set apart to him as holy.
To be truthful we don’t know
why God required some things, maybe for the same reason that we sometime require
things as parents and so we have the Just
Because Rules
: Leviticus 19:19 “You must obey all my decrees. “Do not mate two different
kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two different kinds of seed. Do
not wear clothing woven from two different kinds of thread.
How come?  Just because. 
There is a lesson there that is lost on us but it wasn’t lost on the
Israelites.  Parents are fond of quoting Leviticus 19:28 . . . do
not mark your skin with tattoos. I am the LORD.
But then they forget Leviticus 19:27 “Do not
trim off the hair on your temples or trim your beards.
Some rules cross over into several areas, Leviticus 18 deals
almost exclusively with sexual issues, things which we would say are governed
for social good.  Without regulations
concerning marriage etc the family unit begins to fail and we are starting to
discover the results of that in Canada
today. 
However they also fall in the
emotional good category as can be attested by the devastation that is felt when
you discover your spouse has been cheating on you,
or even the damage done to yourself when you break your wedding vows. You
understand that you will pay, Proverbs 6:27 Can a man
scoop a flame into his lap and not have his clothes catch on fire?
By the way that verse deals specifically with the
consequences of adultery, check it
out for yourself. 
But the rules governing sexual conduct are also there for
our physical good, the physical
consequences of promiscuity cannot be ignored,
whether it unwanted pregnancies or sexual transmitted disease there are a many
things that could be eliminated by following the rules.  I know and you know that AIDS is not simply a
homosexuals disease but we also know that it was spread primarily because
people would not listen to the rules,
rules that said homosexuality is wrong,
rules that said sex outside of marriage is wrong.
And you and I know that if people had of followed the rules
that we wouldn’t have a problem with HIV and AIDS.
When Christ came and offered himself up as a sin offering
for each of us he made many of the laws in Leviticus concerning offerings and the
priesthood irrelevant.  But there are
rules that govern our personal behaviour that still stand and I don’t think I
need to tell you which are which, I
think you can figure that out on your own.
However simply being legal isn’t enough.  The motive under which the scribes and
Pharisees, that is the religious elite of Jesus’ day, lived was to satisfy the
law.  Everything was aimed at doing what
was specified in the law.  Theoretically
a person could say “I have done all that is required by the law.”
It’s a Matter of Our
Love for God
The difference in the life of the Christ Follower is that
the motive is not the law, it is love. We seek to satisfy God not so that we
have fulfilled the law, but because we love God.  For the religious leaders 2000 years ago, and
for some people today, the aim is simply to satisfy the law of God, make sure
that you have dotted all the i and crossed all the ts.  But for the Christian, the Christ Follower
the goal is to show our gratitude for God’s love and salvation.
When you truly love God you
don’t do what you want, you do what he wants. 
When we see the love that God sets before us the we seek to answer that
love with reciprocal love.  And that’s
why Jesus said John 14:15 “If you love me, obey my commandments.
He didn’t say if you respect me as a teacher, obey my
commandments.  Or if you acknowledge me
as God, obey by commandments.  Instead he
said “You’ll obey me if you love me.” 
Respect and fear will only take you so far, it will be love that will
take you the rest of the trip.
I hope that we
can see beyond the law to see people and I hope that we can see beyond our own
righteousness to our reason for being righteous and that is our love for
Christ.  And so Christ gives us examples
of what he means.  The law says you shall
not murder, you shall not commit adultery, whoever divorces his wife let him
give her a certificate of divorce, you shall not lie and you shall love your
neighbour. 
Each of these
five statements in one way or another symbolizes the Jewish society in which
Christ was raised.  Each of these five
statements was part of the Mosaic Law laid down to guide the people of Israel.  There was behind each statement a purpose and
that purpose was to hold together a civilization, to keep it from
deterioration, to prevent it from dissolving into chaos, and to allow it to
govern itself.
What these basic
five laws as laid down here did was to act as salt for society.  The Ten Commandments and Mosaic Law was not
intended for a redeemed society it was to prevent an unredeemed society from
tearing itself apart.  Often we think of
the “Ten Commandments” as being Christian principles, but the same guidelines
can be found in most civilizations around the world and throughout history.  Without these principles society and everyone
in it would destroy themselves.  And
Christ is saying that when we have been touched by his love and his grace that
even more is expected of us then what is expected of everyone else.  That when we fulfill the law that we become
salt and light to the world. 
Over the next
couple of weeks we will be looking at what Jesus expects of his followers. 
Earlier I
mentioned a quote that is often attributed to Augustine: “Love God and
do whatever you please.”  But that
isn’t the quote, listen to what Augustine actually said, “Love God and do whatever you
please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One
who is Beloved.”

The Church, The Body of Christ

The Church. The Church. 
When I say church, what do
you think of? A little white clapboard building with a steeple and a bell, or
perhaps the Crystal Cathedral in California.  
Maybe you don’t think of a building instead you think of people, perhaps your friends and fellow believers at Cornerstone   come
to mind, if so that is good. Church
means many different things to many different people.  Some people feel warm and fuzzy inside when
you mention church, other’s get
angry.  But the reality is that if you
are a believer, a Christ Follower
then you have no doubt had some experience with a church.

For some people Cornerstone Church became a church when we
moved into this building.  But does a
building make a church?  When people ask
me what I do I tell them “I pastor the church across from Kingswood”  and for many that means that I work in this
building.  The reality is that I pastor,
or shepherd, the people who meet in this building. 
So let’s start by defining what Church means.  In the New Testament,
the word that was used was a Greek word,
which makes a lot of sense considering the New Testament was written in Greek.
And the word was ekklesia, From ek
‘out of’ and kaleo ‘call’ thus they were the called out ones.  And although that word wasn’t used
exclusively to mean Church it was the word used to describe the Church.  The English word Church has its roots in a
different word that literally meant “Of the Lord.”

A.W. Tozer said “One hundred religious persons knit into a unity by
careful organizations do not constitute a church any more than eleven dead men
make a football team. The first requisite is life, always.” 

Over the past three weeks we have been looking at the
church.  We started with what it would
cost for our church to grow, that it would mean that we would be in a constant
state of change, because every new family, every new person in the church would
change what the church looked like.  And
then we spoke about how we would have to give up our smallness, as perceived as
that may or may not be, and that it would require sacrifice, of time, talent,
money and preferences. 
Then two weeks ago we spoke about what it meant for the
church to be the bride of Christ and the things that we could do to be the most
attractive bride possible.  Last week the
message was based on the Church being the Family of God and what that meant
2000 years ago and what it means for us today. 

There is another metaphor that
the New Testament used for the church and it is found in the scripture that was
read for us earlier Ephesians 4:15-16 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every
way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He
makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special
work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and
growing and full of love.
We are told here that the
Church is the Body of Christ.  But it
does tell us that we shouldn’t be content to just be any body that we are to be
a healthy body.  So what does that
mean? 

How do we become and remain a healthy church?    A
church that had an impact on its entire community and the lives of the people
in that community? A church that makes a difference not just for the here and
now but for the there and then?  A church
that has an eternal impact and makes an eternal difference?
Let’s go back to the scripture we started with:  Ephesians 4:15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every
way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.
1) A Healthy Church
Will Have Christ at the Head.
That seems almost self-evident
but I’m not sure that it is.  Notice that
I didn’t say a Healthy Church will be a Christian Church.  The reason is that I don’t think that every
church that calls itself a Christian church is a Christ following church or for
that matter a Christian Church.  What
makes a church a Christian Church?  Historically
they were churches that fell in line with the Apostle’s Creed.  What is the Apostle’s Creed, glad you asked. 
Let’s read it together.

The
Apostle’s Creed
I believe in God,
the Father Almighty,
the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
The third day He arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Church Universal
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.
Amen.
So there are some essentials in there that make a church a
Christian Church.  Belief in God and the
divinity of Jesus Christ, in the Trinity, in the virgin birth of Christ, of his
death and resurrection and the reality of heaven and hell.  And if a church doesn’t believe in those
things then historically and in my view they are not Christ Following
Churches. 
But it has to go beyond that,
it needs to go to following the directions that Christ set down for His church.  If we are going to be a Christ following
Church then we need to take this book to heart as the word of God.  If we aren’t willing to take our direction
from the word of God then where will we get it?

Ephesians
4:16
He makes the whole body fit together
perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts
grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
2) A Healthy Church
Will be A Growing Church. 
First of all this has nothing to do with numbers.  A healthy church will be a church that is
growing spiritually.  If we could figure
out a way to test people who attended church on a regular basis than those who
attend a healthy church would know more about the Bible today than they did a
year ago and they should know more about the bible in a year then they know
today.
Throughout the New Testament we
see this concept taught time and time again, believers are told to leave the
elementary things behind, to stop being content with spiritual milk and begin
eating spiritual meat, to stop laying the foundation and start constructing the
actual building of their faith.  We are
told in Hebrews 6:1 So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ
again and again. .  .   Sometimes we get so comfortable with
the beginning that we don’t want to move on, but we have to, when we stop
learning we stop growing, that’s true in your academic life, that is true in
your work life and that is true in your spiritual life. 
So how do we grow spritually?  Well to a certain degree, it happens on Sunday morning,
but if that is the only time you are being fed spiritually then you will starve
to death.  You will not grow spiritually
if this is all the spiritual food you take in. 
And don’t try to dump it on me and do the “we’re not being fed
spiritually” line.  My job is to provide
you with good solid biblical teaching on Sunday.  But think about it,
if I provided you with a wonderful gourmet meal each Sunday for lunch. The very
best food that you could possibly want,
soup, salad,
appetizer, entrée, dessert the works,
would you be content to only eat on Sundays? 
And then only on the Sundays that you actually made it to Church.  No, you would make it your responsibility to
eat on Monday, Tuesday and all the way through the week. 
If you are going to grow
spiritually then you need to eat spiritually. 
Listen to what the Bible says about some believers,
nobody here I’m sure. Hebrews 5:12-14 You have been believers so long now that you ought to be
teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things
about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.
For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do
what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training
have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.
How do you learn more about the Bible?  A good place to start is by reading the Bible, find a translation that works for you, I love the New Living Translation, if you don’t have a bible and can’t afford one let
me know and I’ll buy you one.  Borrow the
Bible on CD from the library out by the fireplace, listen to them in your car,
read Christian books, again we have several shelves of them, fiction and
non-fiction, when you’re through with those let me know and you can come peruse
my library, when you’re done there I’ll introduce you to Miracles Christian
Book Store or Noah’s ark. 
Another way of feeding yourself spiritually is through small
groups, not just for the knowledge that you gain but for the relationships that
you build.  (Skit guys video).
Tonight we are doing some brainstorming to see what our
small group ministry should look like for the upcoming year and we would love
for you to join us here at 6:00 p.m., did I mention there will be Ice Cream?
Acts
2:41
Those who believed what Peter said were
baptized and added to the church that day . . .
3) A Healthy Church
Will be A Growing Church. 
This has
everything to do with numbers.  I truly
believe that if we are going to be a healthy church then we need to be growing
numerically as well as spiritually.  We
need to be seeing new faces in our church family. 
I know that when you talk numerical growth people
automatically figure that you are only in it for the numbers.  And you know what they are right.  I tell people; I count numbers because
numbers count.  Every number is a person
and every person has a soul that needs God.  In the first chapters of the book of Acts Luke
records that the church grew by 3000 and 5000and finally he gave up trying to
keep track and just said “The Lord added to their numbers daily those who were
being saved.”
If we are going to reach people with the Gospel and if we
are going to see them grow spiritually then we will grow numerically.  There are thousands and thousands of people
in our community who need to know the truth of the Gospel,
and we have a moral obligation to share that truth with them.
Matthew
16:18
Now I say to you that you are Peter
(which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the
powers of hell will not conquer it.
4) A Healthy Church
Will be An Offensive Church. 
Now
this doesn’t mean offensive in the sense that the church is supposed to offend
people. 
For too long the church has been on the defensive, we hunker down in our little trenches cover our
heads and hope that we can ward off the Devil until he gets tired and goes
away.  In other versions the scripture
that I had read said “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not
prevail against it.” And we have this vision of hell attacking the church and
the church is putting up a great defence and we are able to withstand the
attack of the Devil and his legions.
But that isn’t what the scripture says; it says the gates of
hell will not prevail.  Now I’m not a
military strategist or military historian but I don’t think that gates are
normally used as offensive weapons. You don’t attack someone brandishing a gate
over your head. Even in Canada
with all of the budget cuts the military has had to put up with I don’t think
they are issuing gates to our soldiers to use as weapons.
We are to take the offensive,
the church is supposed to take a stand and say this is wrong and this is
right.  We are supposed to be serious
about depopulating hell and decrying immorality and that means that we need to
take the offensive, not hide from
the devil but attack. 
Matthew
15:12
Then the disciples came to him and
asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?”
5) A Healthy Church
Will be An Offensive Church. 
Now
this means that the church will sometimes have to offend people.  As a matter of fact every time the word “offend”
is used in the New Living Translation it is in reference to something Jesus
either said or did.  You cannot be obedient
to the word of God without offending people. 
And if you are committed to taking a stand for what the scriptures teach
then you will be offensive to some people. 
If you take a stand for traditional marriage then you will offend those
who living together and same sex couples. 
  If you say you must be born
again then you will offend those who believe their own goodness will get them
into heaven.  If you say that Jesus is
the only way to heaven then you will offend the Muslims,
the Hindu’s, the Buddhists etc. etc.
The only way that we will never offend anyone with our
Christian faith is if we never say anything and never do anything.  And then we will be offending God with our
disobedience.  As James Thomson said “I think a
bishop who doesn’t give offence to anyone is probably not a good bishop.” And
a church that doesn’t give offence to anyone is probably not a good church.
1
John 3:16
We know what real love is because
Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers
and sisters.
6) A Healthy Church
Will be a Sacrificing Church. 
Now
this doesn’t have anything to do with money. 
You understand don’t you that as a Christian there will be sacrifices
that you have to make.  Decisions that
you make as a believer that you might not have made were you not a follower of
Jesus Christ. Life-style choices that you make because of your commitment to
God’s word.  In other times and places
those choices have resulted in people surrendering their lives.  In our culture you might be put into a
position where you lose a promotion or popularity because of a stand that you
take. That is a sacrifice.  As a church
there will be stands that we take that make us less than popular with those
around us.
Paul told the believers in the church in Corinth that there would be times that they
would have to abstain from actions not because they were wrong but because they
could cause fellow believers to stumble. That’s a sacrifice.  There may be times that you won’t agree a
hundred percent with the direction the church is taking but unless it’s a direct
violation of scripture you might say “at this point I’m willing to agree to
disagree for the greater good.” 
Sometimes the sacrifice that we need to make for the church is our own
preferences.  
We aren’t talking about uniformity, we are not asking you to
check your brain at the door.  We don’t
all have to agree on everything we do as a church.  If we insisted on complete uniformity at
Cornerstone then we wouldn’t be a church we would be a cult.  However if we are going to move ahead we will
need unity.
You won’t be the first to make a sacrifice, Ghandi speaking of Jesus said  “A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of
others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a
perfect act.”
Acts
2:44
And all the believers met together in
one place and shared everything they had.
7) A Healthy Church Will be a Sacrificing Church Now this has
everything to do with money.  I know, I’m
only supposed to talk about money in April, but I will keep it short. 
I am convinced that nothing
great is every achieved without sacrifices being made.  Every one of us has made sacrifices to
achieve something. We have all given up something for something better or
something we want more.  That is
sacrifice.  Throughout the history of the
church financial sacrifices were made.  Acts 4:32 All the
believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was
not their own, so they shared everything they had.
And if we skip ahead twenty years we read this description
about the church in Macedonia, 
2
Corinthians 8:2-3
They are being tested by
many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant
joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave
not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free
will.
This church exists because people made sacrifices to make it
happen, when we started we had people all over the Maritimes giving
sacrificially to see this dream become a reality.  And today this church and every other church
around exists because people give sacrificially.   You
understand that every dollar that someone gives to Cornerstone   could
have been spent somewhere else, they have sacrificed something in order to give
to God’s work. 
                                                                                       
This building didn’t happen because people gave their spare
time and spare change; it happened because people made sacrifices.  And that is kind of abstract now because it’s
like the building has always been here, but a committed group of people gave up
vacations, and buying new cars and building bigger homes so we could have this building
to worship in.   Philosopher George Santayana commented “Nothing so much enhances a good as
to make sacrifices for it.”
And who will decide what that sacrifice should be?  You are the only one who can do that. 
If Cornerstone is going to be
the church that God wants it to be that will only happen as the people who make
up Cornerstone are the people that God wants them to be.  Our individual responsibility as Christ followers
is to follow Christ, to be spiritually healthy and spiritually mature.  Let’s go back to where we started this
morning Ephesians 4:15-16 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every
way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He
makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special
work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and
growing and full of love.   The
church can’t be all that it’s supposed to be unless the individual parts of the
body are being all they are supposed to be as well.
Are you committed to helping Cornerstone Wesleyan Church be
the church God desires it to be?

Who Cares?

The question apparently isn’t “was he or wasn’t he?”. . . the question is “Who cares?”   A couple of weeks ago it was reported that a fragment of manuscript had been discovered with the words “Jesus said to them, ‘my wife. . .’”.  Well, that set the cat amongst the pigeons, so to speak.  The “Jesus had a wife” bunch are saying, “We told you so”.  The other bunch are screaming “Heresy!”.  And most of the world is saying “Who cares?” 

ATV news did a web poll and 45% said it didn’t matter to them if Jesus was married. It’s kind of interesting that the number of people who said they didn’t care was 666……. I kid you not.  But if the manuscript is authentic, and if it didn’t refer to the plethora of Jesuses who lived 2000 years ago, what difference would it make to your understanding of Jesus?
I know that nowhere in the Bible does it say that Jesus was married, but nowhere does it say he wasn’t. The bible does tell us he was sinless but in no place does it tell us that marriage is sinful. 
Neither the words nor the grace of my Jesus would be minimized if he was married.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible. 

Panem et Circenses

Topless princesses or spoiled hockey players? The news is full of both stories.

It is interesting that the obscene salaries of professional athletes only becomes an issue when there is a strike or a lock out.  But as long as the fans have something to watch nobody really talks about salaries.  People are always decrying the salary of the CEO of Nova Scotia Power, but he has a real job with real responsibilities, making sure the power stays on for a million people.   Hockey Players “play” hockey and I know that their career may only last 5 years, but still. 
However the reality is that hockey players demand those salaries because they know they can get them, because people will pay to be entertained.  The same reason tabloids will pay for and print pictures of topless princesses.  The Romans had a phrase for this “Panem et Circenses”, “Bread and Circuses”, the entertainment of the masses.   Maybe it’s just my cynical nature and we aren’t really seeing the swirls of our society heading in the direction of the Roman Empire.
Can the church changes society?  Is that the churches job?  Nope.  It’s to preach Jesus because He can change people, and changed people will result in a changed society. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible. 

The Church, The Family of God

Over the past couple of years the media has made having a
hay day with the news that fewer and fewer Canadians are attending church on
any giving Sunday. They cite statistics that as a people Canadians seem to be
becoming more spiritual, that is
they pray more and meditate but they are not going to church as much.  You ever wonder why that is?  Well you are in luck because this morning we
have the top ten reasons why people don’t go to church.  You ready? 
Here we go the  # 10 Relate to
Jazz and rock more then Handel and Bach # 9 Would rather sleep in own bed then
pew # 8 Already served time as a child # 7 During organ music I think of Don
Cherry # 6 Can only remember 3 commandments # 5 Feel guilty enough already # 4
When I want to feel guilty I call my mother #3 Last time I kneeled I had a hard
time getting up again # 2 People that happy just give me the creeps and the
number one reason people don’t go to church: It just isn’t relevant.

 

Well that was fun but what would happen if we were to go out
and ask people on the street why they don’t go to church? Let’s see (Video clip
from e.seentials vol. 3 No. 5 “Word on the street_ Why don’t you go to church?”)
Maybe you can relate,
and maybe you can’t.  If I think back to
before I had a relationship with God church really wasn’t something I thought
about, church was what other people
did.  And for people who are like that it’s
mostly because they see church in a couple of different ways.
1) Some See Church as
an Obligation. 
There are people out
there who see church as an ought to or a got to.  When I was a kid and a teenager if I was
visiting at my Grandmother Guptill’s house I knew that if I was there over a
Sunday there was an obligation to go to church. 
You might choose not to go to church but then you really didn’t qualify
for Sunday dinner.  It was pretty much a
no brainer. So I would go, and smile and sing the songs or at least fake
smiling and singing the songs.  I was
there not because I wanted to be I was there under duress or at least as a
courtesy to Gram, it was important to her so I went.  And I don’t think it hurt me that much, it
did mean that when someone asked what religion I was that I had an answer: I’m
a Baptist.  I didn’t really know what a
Baptist was but I knew that the only church I ever attended was Baptist so I
must have been a Baptist. 
When I was in High School my best friend’s girlfriend
thought they ought to go to church,
and so to keep her happy he went.  That
was out of obligation.  He was Anglican
and she was Catholic and they wanted to find middle ground and so they choose
to try a Wesleyan
Church because his
brother was a Wesleyan Minister.  They
heard that Wesleyan was kind of like Baptist so they dragged me along as a
translator.  I went out of obligation.
Maybe you attend to make your spouse happy or to make your
parents happy. That’s attending out of obligation.  I’ve been preaching for 30 years and I can
usually tell when someone is here out of obligation.  But to be honest it probably won’t do you any
harm. The night that I chose to follow Christ, I had gone to church that night
out of obligation to get my best friend off my back.
Sometimes the obligation isn’t to another person it’s an
obligation that is felt to God.  Kind of
covering all the bases, you’re sure that somewhere in the 10 commandments it
says “Thou shalt go to church”.  You’re
not positive of all that God requires but you’re pretty sure that going to
church is part of that.  And you figure
that when you get to the pearly gates that if the question “did you go to
church?” is on the admittance questionnaire you’ll at least have that one
right.
Psychotherapist Wayne Dyer made
the comment that  “Relationships based on obligation lack dignity.”  Dyer went on to say “If you are living out of a sense of obligation you are a slave.”
That doesn’t sound like fun. 
Hmmm
2) Some See Church as
an Event.  “
Today family we are going
to church.”  Kind of like going to the
movies or going to the circus.  It’s an
event not an everyday happening. 
Sometimes those events are things like baptisms,
weddings and funerals. I heard someone refer to those events as hatching, matching and dispatching.  Kind of like the fellow who said “Preacher
the first time I went to church they sprinkled water on me and the second time
I went they threw rice at me.” The preacher thought for a moment and then
replied “Yeah and I suppose the next time you come we’ll throw dirt on you.”
I met a distant cousin a number of years ago and she told me
the only time she’d ever been in church, ever, was for weddings and funerals. Church
just wasn’t a part of her life.  And if
Church is simply an event then it’s difficult to conceive of it as a regular
part of your life, I mean how many weddings and funerals can you attend? I mean
even Hugh Grant could only do four weddings and a funeral. Of course that was
in the span of two hours.
And there are people who never attend church but when they
get married they want it to happen in a church, and when they have their first
child they want it baptized and when someone dies they go looking for a
preacher to handle the funeral.  But to
be truthful I think they are just superstitious and see the church like a lucky
rabbit’s foot, which obviously wasn’t that lucky for the rabbit.  They think that maybe they’ll have a better
marriage a healthier child and preferred reservations at the Pearly Gates if
they include the church in their plans.
And then there are the C & E folks, those who come at
Christmas and Easter.  It’s the thing to
do that’s what church is all about and Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without
going to Christmas Eve service.  I used
to be amazed when Anglican, Catholic and United Pastors told me how many
services they have to have on Christmas Eve to accommodate all the people for
that one event.  I thought it was mind boggling.  Last year we had five services and saw over
600 people attend those services plus all of those who attended online.  For many people Cornerstone is their church
even if they only attend at Christmas.
And then are still others who attend on a regular basis but
church is still just an event for them. 
Something that you do every Sunday. 
When I was growing up on Saturday we had homemade beans and rolls and
watched the Bugs Bunny show, every
week. That was Saturday and that was our event.
For some people on Sunday they go to church, but I think
they may be like Calvin Coleridge.  When
he was President he attended church alone one Sunday while his wife was sick.  Now obviously the President didn’t always pay
attention to the message because when he got home his wife quizzed him and
asked “So what did the pastor preach on?” 
The president thought for a moment and replied “Sin.”  “And what did he say about sin?” probed his
wife.  The president thought again and
replied “he was against it.”  I wonder if
he was really paying attention?
By the way that isn’t a new phenomenon Thomas Fuller made this comment almost 400 years ago “Many come to bring their clothes to church rather than
themselves.”
But if people see Church as an obligation or an event they
aren’t to blame, the church is.  For way
too many years the church has marketed itself that way.  Either they tried guilting people into
attending. You know “If you don’t attend church you are going to hell.”  I got news for you: simply attending church
isn’t going to have any impact on your eternity.  Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any
more than going to a Hockey Game makes you a hockey player or living in a
garage would make you a car.  Sorry.
Other Churches don’t bother with the guilt routine instead
they simply rely on the fact that their people have always come to church, it’s
the thing to do on Sunday, so they offer Church as an event, the thing to
do.  But in 2012 that doesn’t cut
it.  Church isn’t the only show in town
anymore and just because Mom and Dad went to church every Sunday isn’t a valid
reason for me to go.  I can find another
more relevant event to attend on Sunday.
So what’s the answer? 
How does the church become relevant for 2012?  The question that is asked by many churches
and pastors is: “What new thing do we need to become in order to attract a new
generation of believers?”
 
But we don’t have to become something new instead we need to
become something old and we need to present it in a new way.  Instead of looking at church as a religious
thing we need to see it as a relationship thing.  A relationship with God and a relationship
with others.
You see the Bible never saw church as an obligation, nor did
it see Church as an event as a matter of fact for the first 300 years the
church existed it was the socially and religiously unacceptable thing to
do.  It could get you fed to the
lions.  But when the New Testament sought
a metaphor to use for the church
of Christ time and time
again it came back to “Family” 
Listen again to the scripture that was
read earlier Ephesians 2:19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners.
You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s
family.
The Bible Sees Church
As A Family 
Now you may be thinking:
“But I already have a family.” There was a time that having a family was akin
to the Waltons on TV, Ma and Pa, the kids and the Grand Parents all living
together in happy harmony with Aunts and Uncles and cousins all within a
stone’s throw away.  But that isn’t a
reality anymore. 
We don’t see many families in this day and age that live in
the same community.  Just out of
curiosity I wonder how many people here today were born in Halifax. And of
those who were born in Halifax how many of your parents were born in Halifax?
No longer do we live and raise our family in the same
community as our parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and
nieces and nephews.  And because of that
we don’t have the support system that those people offered to us and to our
children.
Anthropologist Margaret Mead
wrote “Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family
to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support,
we’ve put it in an impossible situation.”  
And we weren’t designed that way,
humans are social creatures for the most part and throughout history we have
dwelt together in family units.
Jane Howard said “Call it a clan,
call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are,
you need one.” 
In 1990 we moved to Australia leaving our family behind
and the people of the church we went to adopted us as their family.  The invited us over for special occasions,
they were there when we needed someone to talk to or pray with.  We laughed with them and cried with
them.  Our first day in our new country
our children were introduced to Aunt Barb and Uncle Max,
they were family and we were family.  The
logo for the Wesleyan Church in Australia is “Not just a church, a family.” And it was.
But how do we move from “church” to “Family”? 
2000 years ago, in many ways becoming a Christian could mean
leaving your family behind.  You were no
longer identifying yourself as Jewish or aligning yourself with the Greek or
Roman Gods.  And your decision to follow
Christ would separate you from your natural family in much the same way as
physical distance often separates us today, and so your brother and sisters in
Christ became your family. 
So listen to the comment that Jesus made to his disciples in
John’s gospel.  Jesus was telling the
twelve how others would know that they were Christ followers.  He didn’t say it would happen because of what
they called themselves, or where they attended church or how they voted, or how
they wore their hair or what type of music they listened to instead he said John 13:35 “Your love for
one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
Notice that isn’t what made them Christ’s disciples it
simply proved that they were Christ’s disciples.  Because they loved one another.
Listen to a description of the early
church found in the book of Acts,
they had no church buildings, no
church names, no denominations but
they were the church. 
Acts 2:44-46 And all the believers met together in one place and
shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared
the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day,
met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and
generosity—
In the book of 1 Corinthians
Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth
telling them how they were to behave toward one another in the church.  Now this passage is very familiar because
it’s often read at weddings, but in
reality it wasn’t written about marriage relationships,
although it wouldn’t hurt to treat your spouse this way.  This was written telling believers how they
were supposed to respond to one another. Paul has just listed  a number of different spiritual gifts and
then he says 1 Corinthians 12:31 . . . But now let me show you a way of life that is best of
all.
Now listen to what Paul wrote:
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels,
but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I
had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and
possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains,
but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the
poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love
others, I would have gained nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love is not
jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not
irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about
injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never
loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become
useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and
incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole
picture! But when full understanding comes, these partial things will become
useless. When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But
when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly as in
a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that
I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything
completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last
forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
That’s what we are supposed to
be doing, do we always get it right? 
Nope, we’re still people, but we are trying to be more then a church, we are trying to be a family.  And if you don’t have a church family to call
your own we’d love for you to try our church family but more than that we’d
like to invite you to be a part of God’s family, and how does that happen?  John 1:12-13 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the
right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth
resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.
 Two things here  “Believe in Him”  we talked about that this summer, who is
Jesus, who did he claim to be.  It’s not
just believing in Jesus in some nebulous, wishy washy way, mamby pamby, Jesus
was a cool guy, kind of way.  It is
believing that he was and is the son of God, that he was born of a virgin, that
he died on a cross and physically rose from the dead.
And the second thing is “Accepting Him”.  Accepting that he loves you, accepting that
he died for you, accepting that he can forgive you and accepting the grace that
he has to offer you.  And the
result?  You will become a child of God.

Who’s Your Daddy

Who’s your daddy? Or, who isn’t your daddy?  A company in New York City, cruising the city streets in a mobile medical clinic, is offering people a chance to find out for just $299.00.  DNA testing, once an expensive time-consuming process out of reach of most people, has suddenly become affordable.  Sources say over 500,000 of the relationship tests are done every year in the United States. However, experts are warning of the danger of these tests claiming that many clients may not be psychologically prepared for the results.
Many of those who purchase the test are looking for confirmation that their fathers or their children are or aren’t who they were told they were.  Social scientists warn that the results could diminish past family relationships if new biological connections are discovered.  In some cases they say it is better to let sleeping dogs lie.  But sometimes the dogs aren’t the only ones lying.
If you are a Christ follower then you will always know for sure who your father is, perhaps not your earthly father but ultimately your heavenly Father.  And you don’t need to spend $299.00 to have your DNA checked. All you have to do is read the New Testament.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible. 

The Church, a Beautiful Bride

It was a quiet Saturday morning as the guests began to
filter into the little church.  Friends
of the couple had been there for hours making sure everything was just
perfect.  The guests were a diverse
bunch, some were friends of hers, and others were friends of his.  They both had family there as well as friends
that they shared.  They were all there
from the very old to the very young to celebrate with the couple.  It was a special day, perhaps the most
special day in their lives and all those who loved them had come to make it
even more special.
Each of the pew markers had been painstakingly created
by the bride’s aunt, her mother’s sister. 
Tiny lace doilies starched to stiff perfection with burgundy bows
holding petite ceramic bells in place. 
Each one an individual expression of love.  The floral arrangements on the platform had
been done by the groom’s mother, four baskets overflowing with flowers from the
garden which filled their back yard. 
Each bloom chosen for its beauty, each one placed with the love that she
had given her son through all his years growing up. 
The music had been chosen with an ear to tradition,
and with careful attention given to things special to the couple.  The medley of love songs floated over the
gathering crowd.  On the eleventh hour
the bride groom and his entourage stepped on to the platform.  Fiddling with their hands and looking
handsome and awkward in their rented tux’s, they wait with baited breath.  With a barely discernible nod the pastor
signals the organist who begins to play “ode to joy”.
Through the doors in the rear of the sanctuary step
the first of the brides maids and she makes her way down the isle, consciously
thinking of the instructions received the night before at the rehearsal.  Step, wait, step, wait, step wait.  Half way down the aisle she is followed by
yet another pretty young lady in a matching dress.  Step by step they proceed, being joined by
another bride’s maid, the flower girl, and then the bride’s best friend, now
serving as her maid of honour.  The
beautiful young ladies join the handsome young men at the platform and the
organist finishes with Beethoven.
The Trumpet breaks the still air with a flourish and
signals the beginning of the “Trumpet Voluntaire”, the crowd stands as one and
even over the sound of brass you can hear a collective intake of breath as the
bride steps into the sanctuary.
In the Talmud, the Jewish book of wisdom, the rabbis
tell us “On
their wedding day all brides are beautiful”. 
They’re right.  In  over thirty years of pastoral ministry I have
performed dozens of weddings, and never once have I ever seen an ugly
bride.  It just doesn’t happen. 
On the wedding day the bride has made sure that her makeup
is perfect, she’s gone out and had two hours of intense work done on her hair
and make-up.  The dress she is wearing
was chosen after hours and hours of soul searching questions, and fears that it
just wouldn’t say the right thing.  The
flowers in her bouquet were selected to perfectly compliment everything from
her eyes to her hair to the shade of nail polish she is wearing.  Nothing is left to chance.  Absolutely nothing.  She is going to be radiant when she walks
down the aisle and people are going to gasp, and talk about how they have never
seen a more beautiful bride.  When her
groom looks at her walking toward him, there will be no doubt at all in his
mind that he is the luckiest man alive.
The church has long been
recognised as the bride of Christ. Paul writes to the church in Corinth and
tells them 2 Corinthians 11:2 For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I
promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ.
And we are told in Ephesians 5:25-27 For
husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave
up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of
God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without
a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without
fault.
And we know that the one person
the bride wants to be beautiful for on that special day is her groom, but she
wants the spectators to know how much she loves her man and so she is looking
her very best for the congregation as well.
In the same way that all eyes
are on the bride when she walks down the aisle it often seems that the eyes of
the world are on the church. And like every bride the church should be most
concerned about how she is seen by her groom. 
But we need to show the world how important that is to us.  If a bride showed up wearing old tattered
clothes and hadn’t washed her hair in a week and smelled bad what would that
say to the groom and to their friends? 
Oh she could say “It’s what’s inside that counts” or “Don’t judge
me”.  But her appearance would be sending
a very clear message to the groom and to everyone else. 
In the same way the church
should do it’s very best to be and look it’s very best. 
When Paul writes to Titus, he
includes a fairly lengthy section on how Christians are to behave, what they
are supposed to do what they are not supposed to do.  And then he finishes with these words in Titus 2:10 . . . but must
show themselves to be entirely trustworthy and good. Then they will make the
teaching about God our Saviour attractive in every way.
At no other time in history has the church been
scrutinised more closely concerning the claims of the gospel.  Our outward attitudes and outward appearances
are often the only visible means for people to examine us.  And the world holds us to a higher standard
than they do other organizations, when a scandal breaks out involving a school
teacher or a hockey coach or a scout leader it is a very brief flash in the
pan, but the same scandal over someone in the church and it seems to take on a
life of its own.  And we should be held
to a higher standard, we are the church.

On her wedding day the church will be the most beautiful bride that anyone has
ever seen.  Everything will be
perfect.  Nothing will be out of place,
and the entire universe will gasp as she walks down the aisle toward her
bridegroom Jesus Christ.  And as he hears
the fanfare and watches her approach he will know that all of his sacrifice and
the price that he paid on the cross was worth it, because she is the most
beautiful bride that ever was or ever will be.

I’m sure that Jesus could echo the words of King Edward VIII  who said “Of course, I do have a slight advantage over the
rest of you. It helps in a pinch to be able to remind your bride that you gave
up a throne for her.”  Because of Jesus great love for the
world, he gave up all that he was, left his throne and came to earth for his
bride, the church.


So
how do we, the church, present ourselves to Christ as a beautiful bride? 

The scripture that was read earlier was from the last chapter of the book of
Proverbs.  Chapter 31 begins with the
words Proverbs 31:1 The sayings of King Lemuel contain this message, which his
mother taught him.  And there has
been much debate through the years over who he was and who is wasn’t.  Some scholars claim that Lemuel was a wise
man who wrote in the style and nature of Solomon.  Others feel that it was written by Solomon
himself and that Lemuel was possibly a nickname that his mother had for
him.  But that is really irrelevant, I
think what is relevant was that it was Lemuel’s mother who asked the question
in Proverbs 31:10 Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? And then the King’s
mother spends 300 words answering her own question.  And I think that in 2012 the question could
be rephrased to read Proverbs 31:10 Who can find a virtuous and capable spouse?   But this morning we are going to
focus what the “virtuous and capable bride” looks like as it relates to the
bride of Christ.

Now
we need to understand that the church’s main obligation is to be the beautiful
in the eyes of Christ.  We all understand
the reality of “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.  And the one we are to be beautiful for is
Jesus, but that doesn’t mean we ignore how the world sees us.
There are all kinds of ways that the church can be
attractive to people, in attitude, in physical appearance and in the care taken
during morning worship.  Because, whether
we want to admit it or not, people see Jesus in the local church.  If we appear negligent in how we present
ourselves it says something about our view of our Saviour.  Does the face that we present to the
community say “We think it is important to do our best for our saviour,” or
does it say, “We don’t really care.” 
So let’s begin with Song of Songs
4:10
Your love delights me, my treasure, my
bride. Your love is better than wine, your perfume more fragrant than spices.   The Song of Songs or Song of Solomon
has long been regarded as an allegory for the Love that God had for Israel and
ultimately the love that Christ has for the church. 
1) The Church is to be a Loving Bride 
One would think that would go without saying.  In Canada in 2012 we have pretty much moved
beyond arranged marriages and forced marriages. 
The concept of “we had to get married” is almost a relic of the past,
today people marry because they are in love and want to spend the rest of their
lives together. 
Unfortunately if we look at the
statistics for divorce in our country it would appear that not everyone remains
in love.  It seems that if we can fall
into love we can also fall out of love. 
I don’t know how many times I
have sat across the desk from someone who is trying to explain what has
happened to their marriage and they say “I just don’t love them anymore” and
sometimes they will go as far as saying “I don’t know if I ever loved
them.”  But whatever feeling they
experienced as a bride or groom they apparently no longer experience it as a
wife or husband.    
Sometimes that happens with churches, in the book of
Revelation,  that made everyone perk up
didn’t it?  “Oh this is serious, he going
to the Revelation.”   In the book of
Revelation Jesus sends letters to seven churches in Asia and to the first one is
addressed to the church in Ephesus.  This
is the same church that the letter of Ephesians was addressed to, and Jesus
begins his letter by telling them all of the things that they should be proud
of.   And they had a lot to be proud
of.  They worked hard at being an ideal
church, they didn’t lack in good deeds and moral integrity, they rejected sin
from their midst, tested teachers and knew how to separate the true ones from
the false ones. And were perseverant to the end.  You gotta love them. 
But then Jesus says 
“Whoa, not so fast guys, there’s something else.”  And so here it comes for the Ephesians, Jesus
tells them  Revelation 2:4 “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or
each other as you did at first!  Ouch.  That’s gotta hurt.  You ever hear those words in a personal
relationship, you don’t love me like you used to?  And sometimes they are right, sometimes love
fades and disappears.  Maybe because of
neglect or apathy, maybe because the person isn’t as lovable as they once
were.  But yeah sometimes first love
disappears, not necessarily because we want it too and we certainly don’t plan
it but it does.  When I’m counselling
couples who are struggling in a relationship I will often challenge them to
return to their first love. To remember what it was that attracted them to
their partner in the first place, to remember how they felt and the commitments
they made.  We don’t plan on falling out
of love, when we get married we don’t say “Well this will be good for a few
years then I’ll fall out of love and move on.” 
No in most cases we take serious “Till death do us part”  We believe that our first love will never
change.  That’s why Benjamin Disraeli who was the Prime Minister of
England in the 1800s said “The magic of first love is
our ignorance that it can never end.”
And Jesus is looking at the church and saying, “You don’t
love me like you used to.”  And we’re not
sure how that love had changed. Some would suggest that the love that was lost
was their enthusiasm for the Lord.   A
similar analogy is used in the Old Testament, in Jeremiah 2:2
I remember how eager you were to please me as a young bride long ago, how you
loved me and followed me even through the barren wilderness.  Often times there is a honeymoon
period in a relationship but then the first flush of enthusiasm fades.  Perhaps Jesus is insinuating that the joy and
enthusiasm of the Ephesian
Church had disappeared.
Kind of like the story told about the old farmer and his
wife who were driving along in the pickup one day and she asks, “how come we
don’t sit all snuggled up when we drive like we used to?”  to which he replied “I ain’t moved.”
And really how many of us can look back at the hunger with
which we devoured the word of God right after our conversion, and the urgency
and conviction that we shared the Gospel with our lost family and friends.  But then everything got ordinary, we just
kind of drifted along until we lost our first love.
What does it mean to love Jesus?  It’s easy to say “I love you”  but how does that translate into action?   Well Jesus told his apostles in John 14:15 “If you love
me, obey my commandments.”
Let’s go back to the scripture
we began with in Proverbs 31:27 She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers
nothing from laziness.  There was
actually an entire section of that proverb that we didn’t read, and it talked
about all the things that this wife did. 
Kind of reminds me of a plaque my mom had in our kitchen when I was
growing up and it said “A man works from sun to sun but a woman’s work is never
done.” 2) The Church is to be A
Productive Bride. 
Periodically we
read about churches closing, and it seems that it either happens in the inner
city or in small rural communities.  And
often we hear that is just the way it happens, that churches can’t survive in
either of those situations in 2012.  But
that isn’t a reality. 
I can point to churches in
small towns that are thriving, churches where people are meeting God and
growing in their faith.  Our new church
in downtown Halifax, which is just five years old is running close to 300,
people are meeting God and growing in their faith.  They are productive churches. 
Churches are supposed to be
productive, they are supposed to be growing and they are supposed to be seeing
their people growing spiritually. 
Because if they are not productive, if they are not growing then they
are dying.  It is simple math, if every
year a church gets smaller and smaller then it will eventually disappear. 
And finally we read in Proverbs 31:11 Her husband
can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life.  This is probably the most important one, 4) The Church is to be a Faithful Bride There
is nothing more devastating in a marriage than adultery.  And people give all kinds of reasons why they
cheat and today it is greeted with little more than a nod and a wink.  But 2000 years ago it was considered a
serious enough breach in the social fabric to warrant the death penalty. 
And we read in 2 Corinthians 11:2 For I
am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure
bride to one husband—Christ.  Not
just any bride, but a pure bride, a faithful bride.
Throughout the bible adultery is used in relation to
Israel and the church as a euphemism for stepping out on God.  When a church takes a soft stand on sin and
refuses to admonish or condemn sin then it becomes unfaithful to the word of
God and is in effect committing adultery.
We live in a world where churches all too often would
rather preach “love, motherhood and lower taxes” then condemn sin.  They are afraid that they will drive people
away if they preach against sin, they are afraid that it will make them
unattractive to the world.  And because
they are more concerned with pleasing the world than pleasing God they become
the unfaithful wife to Christ. 
And while these churches may present what they see as
an attractive appearance to the world often the world sees through the
hypocrisy to the adultery at the core. 
The concept of biblical and personal holiness is
summed up in the word obedience, obedience to the word of God.  And when the word of God is not used as our
absolutes as Christians and when we participate in actions that are directly
spoken against in the bible then we are unfaithful to Christ.
What do we need to do to be the most attractive bride
that we can possibly be for Christ?  Well
this passage tells us that we need to submit to him.  One person doesn’t make a church but a church
is made up of a pile of one persons.  And
while we may not be able to change the church individually, individually we can
change the church.  And we can make the
church a beautiful bride through our individual obedience.  If the rest of the church doesn’t come to the
party that is their responsibility. 
Yours is being obedient on a person level to what Christ wants in your
life.

Here Kitty, Kitty


It sounds like something from a science fiction novel, a harbinger of things to come.   A computer that has been taught to learn.  Can anything good come from this? 
In June, Google’s secretive X-Labs conducted an experiment involving the networking of 16,000 ultrafast computer processors.  Then they loaded 10 billion random images from YouTube videos and waited to see what would happen.  And . . are you ready for it?  The machine taught itself to recognize cats.  Which kind of makes sense when you think about it, if it was on YouTube and it wasn’t drunk then it was probably a cat.  Jeff Dean one of the scientist involved stated “We never told it during the training, ‘This is a cat.’ It basically invented the concept of a cat.”
One commentator wrote, “The frightening part of this report is that modern computers appear to be capable of independent learning through extrapolation.”  Hate to burst their bubble but what it took 16,000 ultrafast processors and billions of pictures to accomplish, our two year old granddaughter did last year.  Because there has never been a creation as marvellous as the one that God created on the sixth day.  And that is you!                   
 Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

The Cost of Church Growth

It’s funny but in
church life we often have a few different “Brand New Years”.  The first Sunday in January we celebrate the “New
Year” with the rest of Canada often with a sermon on forgetting the past and
looking ahead to what God has in store for us. 
At Cornerstone as well as other Wesleyan Churches our fiscal year ends
the end of April, as a result “May” is the beginning of a brand new church year
and it’s then that we have our much anticipated and highly aclaimed “Money
Month”. 
But in many ways
September is the beginning of the year as well. 
It is today that the children move up their various levels, from Nursery
to Children’s Church, from Children’s Church to Junior Church, from Junior
church to Ignite and from Ignite to the worship service.  It is in September that we often roll out new
curriculum for the children and as we move into the fall the Staff is busy
planning the preaching series and small groups. 
And the planning and work begins for the . . . wait for it. . . Children’s
Christmas productions and Christmas Eve Service.
Often times, summer
is when you check out a new church if you’ve just moved to the area or if you
just feel it’s time for a new church. 
Reminds me of the story of the man who had been shipwrecked on a
deserted Island for years and finally he is spotted by a ship and a rescue
party arrives to take him back home. 
Before they leave he’s showing them around the island that has been his
home and they come to a clearing with a beautiful view of the ocean and three
grass huts.  One of the visitors ask what
the huts are and the man replies “The one in the centre is my house and the one
on the right is the church I attend.” “Oh “came the reply “what is the other
one?”  “that” says the man “Is the church
I used to attend.”
A pastor friend of
mine told me a number of years ago if I believed that God could call a pastor
to a different church then I should also acknowledge that God could call lay
people to a different church as well. 
And so there are folks at Cornerstone and at other churches who are
starting fresh.
And so in many ways
September is the beginning of the church year, or at least one of the beginnings.
It was 18 years ago
that we actively began to tell people about our vision for what would
eventually become Cornerstone Wesleyan Church and within four months we had a
group of six meeting in our living room and the neat thing is that five of us
are still here.  Can you imagine being in
Stan and Karen Wickwire or Ian and Sylvia Richardson’s shoes when I began to
cast a vision for a church that only existed in my mind and my heart?   And yet here they are all those years later.
And it seemed that
everyone I met in that first year I told them about the church that we were
starting.   But not everyone that we cast
that vision to bought into the dream, there were some who were looking for a
church that was already up and running with a full slate of programs that we
just couldn’t offer and there were still others who just didn’t think there was
a lot of potential for a brand new church like we were envisioning.  But through the years there have been those
who have decided to invest themselves into the dream and help make it a
reality.
In the scripture
that was read earlier we saw a description of the birth of the church.  Not Cornerstone Church but “The church.”  And it is a great description.  Let’s read it again.
Acts 2:41-47 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized
and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all. All the believers devoted
themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in
meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came
over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.
And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.
They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.
They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s
Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— all the while
praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord
added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
 Sometimes you will hear people talk about how
we need to be like the New Testament church, and this is the church that they
are talking about.  But when you stop and
think about it, today that doesn’t sound as much like a church as it does a
cult.  If one of your teenagers came home
and told you that they had heard a guy preaching on the street and they had
joined his group and they were doing church every day, and they had to sell everything
they had to put in a common pot, and they weren’t going to be eating with you
anymore that they would be having all their meals with their new friends, you’d
be a little concerned.  Just saying.  It was Vance Havner who said “The church is
so subnormal that if it ever got back to the New Testament, normal it would
seem to people to be abnormal.”
And that may be true
of the church described in Acts 2:41-47. 
There was certainly a level of commitment there that we very seldom see
in believers today.  But it wasn’t
indicative of the church of the entire New Testament, it wasn’t even indicative
of the church in entire the book of Acts. 
Outside of that one description of that church at that particular point
in history we never see it look like that again.  There is a small glimpse in Acts 4:32 All the
believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was
not their own, so they shared everything they had.  But
from there in we see all of the challenges that happens when you get a group of
people together, the good the bad and the ugly. 
Miracles happen, lives are changed, the poor are feed, God moves,
arguments break out, immoral behaviour happens, people get offended and bent
out of shape.  Some want to do this and
some want to do that. 
When Cornerstone was in its
infancy a gentleman by the name of Marlin Mull told me that there are two types
of people in every church, “The goers and the whoaers”.  And I’ve met both types, you know what
he meant ,those who when you talked about new things and changes were willing
to say “let’s go” and others’ who would brace their feet and say “Whoa, not on
my watch”.  And the goers and the whoaers
were there two thousand years ago as well. 
And the reason the church
changed and didn’t remain as it was described in Acts 2 wasn’t because of sin,
or pride or the devil.  It was because of
people.  People who saw things from
different perspectives, people who had different life experiences, not better
or worse life experiences, just different. 
Even if there had never been another person added to the group the
people themselves would have changed and that would have changed the group.
For the rest of our
time this morning we’re going to look at the cost of church growth.  Let’s be honest with each other and
acknowledge that this church cannot and will not grow without some cost on your
behalf and some cost on mine.  I was
twenty five years old when I was hired as Pastor at Truro Wesleyan Church.   I didn’t
realize the price of church growth and so blindly led the church to grow from 124
to close to 200 and in the process we built a half million dollar worship
center.  Which in 1988 was some serious
change.
Now in the beginning
everyone was gung ho for growth, I mean who wouldn’t be?  How could you be against church growth.  But as we began to grow some people began to
hesitate and balk and some even left the church to find one they would be more
comfortable in.  Not bad people, good
people even godly people but people who weren’t willing to pay the price.  And I vowed that I wouldn’t attempt to lead
another church without being up front about what it was going to cost
them. 
And so this morning
we are simply reminding you of what we’ve already told you about the cost of church
growth because I truly believe that if we are going to accomplish our mission
of introducing people to God that Cornerstone will have to grow.
1) This Church
Will Never Be Like This Church Again.
  Eighteen years ago we had 6
adults involved in a Sunday Night Bible Study, that was Bedford Community
Church, seven years ago we were averaging 45 in our Sunday Morning Service, six
years ago we were averaging 135, last year we averaged 270 in our two morning
service and afternoon service, and each Sunday we have people from around the
world worship with us live online.  Things
change.
Some people have
moved on to other churches, and other people have joined us, and with every new
person the church changes.  A church of 7
is radically different then a church of 45 which is completely different then a
church of 150, which will be different then a church of 250 or 450 or
2000.  As we grow we realize that it is a
fact of life that the church will change and it won’t be like it was before. 
Eighteen years ago
we were meeting in our living room at 184 Basinview Drive, since then we have
met in a community centre then a movie theatre and then back to the community
centre, and at times when we got bumped out of our rented facilities we
worshipped at the Berkeley in Bedford, at Basinview School, in a conference
room in Sackville and at Fish Hatchery Park under a tree.  Seven years ago this weekend, our church
building looked like this and that Sunday 34 of us worshipped together at the
Lebrun Centre.  Three months later, in
our third service in our new building 134 of us worshipped together, things had
changed.  
Six years ago we had one
service on Sunday mornings and we had lots of room, now we have two services on
Sunday morning and there are times it is crowded.  Things change.
And you can only imagine how
the early church felt, after the resurrection there had been 120 who had
gathered in the upper room then we read in Acts 2:41
Those who believed what Peter said were
baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.  And then in Acts
4:4
But many of the people who heard their
message believed it, so the number of believers now totaled about 5,000 men,
not counting women and children.  Things
change. 
Every new person,
every new family will change the personality of Cornerstone.  Think about it we are not the same church we
were before you arrived to make your contribution.  It becomes like a recipe that is changed by
each additional ingredient.  An egg is an
egg, but with milk it becomes a scrambled egg, a little cheddar and you have a cheese
omelet, add some flour and you have a popover, some baking soda, and sugar to
your popover and you have a cake.  Now I
like eggs, omelets, popovers and cakes but they are all different.
And so the first cost of growth is change, not necessarily
bad change or for that matter even good change. 
Just change and change has to happen. 
Harold Wilson, former Prime
Minister of England said “He who rejects change is the
architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the
cemetery.”

2) You Don’t Get Nothing For Nothing  Contrary to popular opinion church growth
doesn’t just happen.  It requires
sacrifice.  Sometimes lots of sacrifices.
  One
thing that people don’t like talking about in churches is money, but the truth
is that churches can’t function without money. 
The money has to come from somewhere and the Scriptures are quite clear
that the “somewhere” is the people of God. 
There is a lot of difference between the financial commitment needed to
maintain a church and the financial commitment needed to grow a church.
We maintained a
church paying $500.00 a month rent for the community centre and some office
space, that’s two days mortgage payment now. 
  Ten years ago we had Denn part
time, 6 years ago we had Denn full time and Jay Part time, and Mike volunteering
20 hours a week for administration and Angela was leading the children’s and
women’s ministry as a volunteer. 
Things continue to change,
I am still full time, but now we have Jason, Marilyn, Mike, Michael, Ben and
Bayley part time.  And if we are going to
continue to grow those positions will eventually morph into full time
potions. 

By staffing for growth we are acting instead of reacting.  Whatever the dollar costs are they will not
be found immediately with new growth.  It
takes about two years for giving to catch up with numerical growth.  If our growth is coming through conversions
it can take that long for people to accept the concept of tithing, and if we
are picking up transfer growth then might need that time to build loyalties and
trust.  Now understand that doesn’t mean
that you have to wait for two years to start giving, you can jump in
anytime. 

The same goes for
time and service.  As the church grows
there will be a lag between getting people in and getting people to the place
where they are willing to serve.  During
the transition period it stretches our people as they have to teach more
children, lead larger youth groups, take on the responsibilities of more growth
groups and begin new ministries to cater to all these “new people”.
One of the greatest
sacrifices that will need to be made is the giving up of preferences. As the
church grows it sometimes grows away from the area that we are comfortable in
and yet unless those changes are clearly wrong in light of the Scriptures we
may have to surrender them in order to see continued kingdom growth.  Twenty Five years ago I read “The Moncton
Wesleyan Church Manifesto”. I don’t know if they still use it but I still quote
it and part of it says, “We might have our
personal preferences about a big church or a small church, a formal service or
an informal service, a long service or a short service, gospel music or
liturgical music, fiery preaching or quiet preaching.  However, if those preference dictate which
church we attend and support, then we can never experience God’s greatest
blessings, because our motives are selfish.”
The second cost of
growth then is sacrifice, of money, or time and of labor or preferences.
3) We Will Have To
Lose Our Smallness. 
Now when you think of it, this is a really
obvious statement and to a certain degree goes back to the idea of our church
changing but it is different. 
One of the major
reasons why some churches are small is because they like being small.  Whether we are willing to admit it or not
there are a lot of nice things about being a small church.  Probably the most obvious advantage of a
small church is that you know everyone. 
You don’t have to guess at names or occupations, and everyone knows
you.  As the church gets bigger you start
to notice there are people that you can’t quite put a name to, and there are
people who don’t know who you are. 
When a church is
small each person has a fair amount of control over what goes on.  After all, one vote in twenty has a lot more
sway then one vote in two hundred.  There
is an intimacy in a small worship service that is difficult but not impossible
to capture in a larger service.  In a
small church you usually know what is going on at any given time.  In a small church you have more of the
pastor.  One man has more time for each
person in a group of forty five then he does in a group of two hundred and seventy.  There are over 400 people who now call
Cornerstone their church home.
I am the chair of the
Kingswood Ratepayers and one of the things we are always struggling with is
development and I have discovered that for most people the community was just
the right size the week they moved in. 
And at that point it should have stopped growing.  In the same way most folks think the church
was the perfect size right after they started attending. 
And size is relative,
Cornerstone Wesleyan is one of the larger churches in the Maritimes, as sad as
they may seem 75 % of the churches have a smaller Sunday Morning attendance
then we do, but there are some here who don’t want to lose our intimate
feeling.  
The problem remains
that if we stay the same size because it appeals to us, then our decision is
based on selfishness.  We cannot see
people won to Jesus Christ and discipled without this church growing.  The only way we cannot grow is by not leading
people into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and so we would have to make a
conscious decision to exclude people from the Kingdom of God in an attempt to
make sure that our church remains comfortable for some people. 
But listen to the command of
Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20 “Therefore,
go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all
the commands I have given you.”
It is a rule of
nature that everything in nature is either growing, dying or dead.
Peter Pan never
wanted to grow up and I think that as children we are often content to remain
children.  But that isn’t what God had in
His plan when he created us, (although maybe having to grow up was a part of
the curse!) even though childhood can be a blast.  We can’t be a Peter Pan Church.  God has some great things in store for us as
we grow and mature, but let’s not ignore the costs that will have to be paid if
we are going to grow.
As we stand on the
threshold of a new era lets step across it with with our eyes open, not
ignoring the problems but realizing that our God is bigger than any problem we
will encounter.  Can I count on you, no
let’s change that it’s not my church and it never has been, can God count on
you to do what needs being done to reach the HRM? 
Sure there will be problems
but none of them so big that they can stop the people of God.
Many things have
changed about the church over the past two thousand years but we still pause
for the sacrament of communion to remember what Jesus did for us. We are the
church, the bride of Christ, part of the Family of God and this morning we are
going to take the time to remember what that means for us today.